13 January 2010
So as we pass the halfway point of the season, everyone begins to talk about the playoff race. The fight to be in the top eight in your respective conference. Everyone gets caught up in talking about home ice, bubble teams and clinching, and the division races fall into the background for the most part. So before that time comes, let's take what will probably be one last look at the division races before it all turns into the playoff races.
Atlantic Division-The New Jersey Devils are first with 65 points; eight more points than second place Pittsburgh. And on top of that, they have three games in hand. The Devils are leading now, have been leading for a while, and will likely finish the season atop the Atlantic.
Northeast Division-Tied for the fewest games played in the division, yet still an outstanding 10 points ahead of second place Boston, the Buffalo Sabres are having one heck of a season early on. Ryan Miller has been their MVP and if they continue this pace, should be considered a league MVP candidate at the end of the season. Boston is the only real threat to take this division title away, but 10 points and a bunch of injuries will probably keep Buffalo a the top the rest of the season.
Southeast Division-No surprise at the top, with Washington leading, but what's surprising is that Carolina is at the bottom. Regardless, Washington is 14 points ahead at this moment, and that'll probably grow over time.
Central Division-Anytime Detroit is 14 points out of a division lead you know a team is having a good year and the Chicago Blackhawks are doing just that with 66 points. They have a seven point lead over second place Nashville and have been consistently one of the best teams all year. They're likely to end Detroit's streak this year.
Pacific Division-No surprise here either with San Jose 10 points ahead of second place. Everyone behind them though is having strange seasons from what was expected as Dallas and Anaheim have struggled and Phoenix and LA have been successful. While the Kings were close to taking the division lead away, they've hit a skid recently and have fallen 14 points back. And while having a great year, the Coyotes are still 10 points behind the Sharks and can't seem to beat them. San Jose will have to endure a lot of injuries to lose their crown.
Northwest Division-And the most competitive division of them all thus far. The Wild and Oilers are out of it while the Flames, Avalanche and Canucks are at each others throats. Calgary and Colorado each have 58 points with Vancouver two behind with 56. The Flames currently hold first thanks to having played one less game so far, but Vancouver has the most wins. It's almost too close to call, but if one team is likely to fall out of it first I'd say Colorado will fade. If Vancouver continues to play the way they have recently they could very well win this thing. But that long Olympics induced road trip could kill them, so right now I'll say the Flames will win it all.
So that's the review. As you can see, maybe one reason people lose sight of the divisions is because five of them halfway through the season are already essentially won. The Northwest will sure be a lot of fun to watch though.
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